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Thursday Night Preview: Can Minnesota Keep Things Rolling?

Now sitting at 5-2 with three consecutive offensive explosions, the Vikings are in a strong spot in the NFC North. Can they win again this week?

It seems like it's either feast or famine on Thursday night -- and this week might be more of the famine variety.

The Minnesota Vikings will look to hold serve at home against the lowly Washington Redskins, who are only 1-6 this season.

Peeking at our power rankings, the home Vikings are fifth, while we rank the Redskins as the second-worst team in the league, having beaten only the worst team, the Miami Dolphins.

Can Minnesota keep things going? Let's dig in and find out.

Quarterback Breakdown

These are an interesting set of quarterbacks to break down and let's start with the oft-maligned Kirk Cousins.

Cousins -- after signing a monster free agent contract up north -- has been up and down. After a brutal start to the year, he's arguably put up the finest three-game stretch of his career, tossing for at least 300 yards in each game to go with 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception.

From an efficiency perspective, Cousins has been out of this world. Among the 32 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, Cousins ranks third in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.33). Case Keenum, the current man under center for the 'Skins, hasn't been quite as good -- his mark of 0.15 Passing NEP per drop back ranks him in the middle (17th).

In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- this one gets fun. Keenum actually ranks as the second-best quarterback in the league (53.55%), while Cousins has still been solid at ninth (51.24%).

In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), Cousins has been solid with a mark of 8.6, whereas Keenum slides back with a mark of 7.0.

With a clear advantage going to Minnesota at quarterback, how do the run games stack up?

Running Back Play

Like quarterback, this one seems to be a bit of a TKO.

After a knee injury last year, Dalvin Cook has bounced back as an absolute monster in 2019. He ranks as fantasy's RB2 this year, leading the league in rushing yards (725), and he's been a highly efficient runner at the same time. He leads the league in terms of Rushing NEP per carry (0.16) while ranking fifth in carries -- that's no small feat.

Veteran Adrian Peterson? This hasn't been his best season. Among the group of ball carriers with 75 or more carries, AP ranks third-worst in Rushing NEP per rush (-0.15). Perhaps the opportunity of a revenge game against his former squad can provide some life in those legs.

With a lot of offense coming at the Redskins, can they stand up in this tough test?

Defensive Matchup

While Washington's offense has had its challenges, it's defense certainly has done the team no favors, either.

Overall, we rank the Redskins D as 27th, clocking in the same against the pass and slightly better against the run (19th). The Vikings, meanwhile, have returned to that upper echelon of team defenses, ranking ninth overall, and ranking eighth both against the pass and the run.

Both teams have been pretty average in getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. In peeking at Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, Minnesota carries a mark of 7.4% (13th), while Washington clocks in with a mark of 6.8% (18th).

Game Projection

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